Eight Dallas Independent School District high schools are among the best in North Texas, according to a Houston-based organization.
Highland Park High School came in at No. 5 on the Children at Risk list, and North Hills Preparatory, a charter school in Irving, was ranked eighth.
But eight of the top 10 public schools in what’s called “Greater Dallas,” are part of DISD, including the top-ranking science and engineering and talented and gifted schools.
The Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership Academy in Dallas made the list for the first time. Students there say they are happy and successful.
“I'm more comfortable in this environment, it's more nurturing,” said Keni Nooner, a senior. “I've become more of a leader, versus if maybe I had been at another school, I don't how I would have been. It might not have been the same way."
The smaller, more specialized learning environments make a difference, according to the Houston-based Children at Risk, which ranked 183 public high schools in nine North Texas counties.
But the Dallas Independent School District still has a dropout rate of nearly 50 percent.
However, some administrators and researchers said they hope the work can be translated across the district, especially for those schools that are failing.
"I think it's real important that we understand that we know how to do the best schools; now can we translate what's happening at those best schools so that every student -- no matter which school they're attending -- every student can benefit,” said Bob Sanborn, Children at Risk president and CEO.
The schools that don't work also have something in common: they are big, urban and poor.
Dallas' Spruce and Pinkston high schools ranked lowest among 183 high schools.